How to build an intelligent community across the digital divide

This week, hundreds from all over the world gathered at the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Summit in Columbus, Ohio, to hear from municipal and urban leaders about the latest intelligent community developments. What exactly is an intelligent community, and how can these types of communities help Ontario thrive as a world innovation leader? 

You may know that municipalities across Ontario are already walking the smart catwalk, including Stratford, Lambton County, Toronto  – not to mention cities across Canada, such as 2016 intelligent community winner, Montreal. To qualify as an intelligent community, ICF uses six indicators: broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital equality, sustainability and advocacy. According to a recent blog post by John Jung, co-founder and chair of ICF and ICF Canada, these indicators take a comprehensive reading of a community’s vital signs:  

There have been many definitions of smart cities over the past several years. As a result, we say that smart cities are technology-focused, based on developing high speed broadband deployment and its applications as well as measuring urban activities, weather patterns and the environment, generating extensive data and undertaking extensive evidence based data analytics, creating cities that are more efficient and cost effective. Essentially smart city efforts are to make cities work better.

ICF takes it to another level. We refer to these unique cities as being more holistic and looking at their communities from a 360-degree perspective. ICF is a social enterprise that focuses on people. Consequently, Intelligent Community efforts focus on creating better cities for people to live, work and play in. We include all forms of infrastructure and data analytics, but then focus on knowledge creation; talent attraction and retention; digital inclusion for all people (no matter what their age, type and location); creating a collaborative innovation ecosystem; developing a focus on sustainability (environmental, economic and social); good governance, including seeking the best in public policy for its citizens, global marketing to attract investment and talent; and citizen participation in the community’s planning and development. We also work with communities to develop its leadership and collaboration capacities, as well as its security and safety concerns. The Intelligent Community focus also looks at creating smart planning and urban design decisions about the physical form and layout of the community in response to major disruptions underway because of technology and new ways of doing things.

This is exciting news for Ontario, as the bar that ICF has set gives rise for deeper regional discussions. We cannot have an intelligent community without talking about a connected and coordinated digital infrastructure. ORION has been a trusted network provider for research, education and innovation institutions across Ontario for more than 10 years – now, we are strengthening our partnerships with regions across Ontario to explore not only the innovation happening within these institutions but connecting them to a regional ecosystem. In other words, an intelligent community needs an intelligent region. And as we’ve seen in the conversations during the ICF Summit, there are many complex socio-economic realities to consider when building a more intelligent community.

How is ORION involved in solving these challenges

orion-digital-divide-broadbandBridge the digital divide. Access to reliable connectivity for both rural and urban centres alike is key when developing intelligent communities. Rural communities need a connectivity strategy that makes sense for their citizens. Read about how ORION is at work in Ontario’s northern communities, particularly in schools.  

ORION_Southlake770pxCreate gateways to intelligent communities. In Fall 2015, ORION installed its newest Point-of-Presence in Newmarket’s Southlake Regional Health Centre. This means that researchers, healthcare practitioners and patients can have the digital means to improve quality of life. But the capabilities extend beyond the hospital — read more about how the PoP further impacts York Region.

diEconomy-intelligent-communityFacilitate innovation. One thing is certain about innovation – it’s cultivated when there are multiple intersections across sectors, disciplines, and great minds. That’s why ORION regularly hosts events like our annual diTHINK conference – this year, the diEconomy panel explored what the economy could look like when communities are increasingly connected to each other by digital infrastructure.

ICF’s intelligent communities set high standards, and there is much to learn from them. Let’s continue the conversation by engaging with Ontario’s multi-faceted talent – whether you come from a school, a municipality, a library, a hospital, or community hub.

Drop us an email or comment on ORION’s Linkedin Group – we’d love to hear from you!